30 Mar Pure South Dining
Originally started under the guidance of Neale White, (now head chef and co-owner of Papa Goose in Melbourne’s CBD), Pure South Dining is a wonderful showcase for the best Tasmanian produce available. Be it free-range meats such as beef, pork or lamb, amazing seafood or the regions award winning wines, it is all on show here.
With former head-chef Ashley Davis heading over to Seddon to open his own restaurant The Copper Pot, a new face is at the helm of Pure South in the form of David Hall. David originally hails from Glasgow in Scotland and began his love affair with food at a very young age, his father also a chef. He has had stints at various high profile restaurants including Balmoral Hotels Michelin starred Number One Restaurant. After moving to Melbourne, he worked at Brooks until it’s untimely closure in late 2015, at which time he moved to Southbank’s Pure South Dining.
I was lucky enough to dine at Pure South in 2015 as part of Southgates Moveable Feasts (review can be found HERE) and was impressed by the care and attention shown to the produce, but also the delicate flavours. I had wanted to return to try the whole menu for some time so after hearing a new head-chef had taken over the kitchen, it seemed an ideal time to try what was on offer and see how it measured up.
The menu consists of the usual entree, main and dessert options, but cleverly they have also included a more graze friendly option in the form of appetizers as well, smaller portions ideal for a quick stop off or to have something to go with your sun-downer cocktails. The wine list is not overly long, but they have some lovely selections – heavy on Tasmanian options as you would expect given the ethos of the restaurant.
Starting the night off was a lone entree of Winnaleah free-range pork belly, coleslaw and apple. I am a huge fan of pork belly and I’ve had some amazing renditions since moving to Melbourne. Sadly, this was not among the best. The meat was certainly tender and crackling crispy, but perhaps not as melt-in-your-mouth as I’ve had and perhaps slightly too much chew to the crackling. The coleslaw and apple went nicely with the pork, but there could have been something else to really liven the plate up – a nice effort and enjoyable, I’ve just had better.
The first of the mains was a slow-cooked Cape Grim grass fed beef cheek served with velvety smooth cauliflower puree, mushroom chutney as well as whole and slivered mushrooms. This was amazing, the beef-cheek melted in your mouth, rich and decadent just as it should be. A Thorpe Farm horseradish was incorporated into a wonderfully light ‘foamed’ cream which helped cut through the richness of it all and ensure you didn’t become bogged down. If you are a fan of beef-cheek then definitely give this a try.
As with the first main, the second was another hit. This time it was a dish consisting of crispy skinned Huon salmon, cooked to perfection. It came served with zucchini, confit fennel, a light spinach puree, Spring Bay mussels and a barigoule sauce (typically a white wine and chicken stock sauce – not sure exactly what else was in this one but it went very well with the salmon and mussels none-the-less).
The highlight of the night came in the form of the first dessert. Despite debating long and hard over what to order, I opted for the pumpkin mousse and wow did I make the right call. The mousse was creamy and rich, a hint of the natural sweetness of the pumpkin but not overpoweringly so which shows a good chef indeed to get the flavour and sweetness so bang on. Coupled with a gorgeously light and fluffy almond sponge, a crisp milk meringue,drops of espresso puree and crunchy wafer fragments, this was a a culinary home run, nothing seemed out of place and it looked inviting on the plate. A huge hit.
The second dessert was never going to compare to the first, a lemon myrtle pannacotta being a more subtle combination of flavours. Still, a palate freshening combination of the pannacotta with a not-too-sweet strawberry sorbet, fresh strawberries and a shortbread crumb meant it was still tasty and certainly not as heavy as the mousse proved to be and it still looked a very pretty plate of food, always good for a dessert.
The restaurant itself is nicely laid out, a lovely fire-place for the winter, wine bottles displayed throughout and a large outdoor area ideal for summer dining (or even that cheeky cocktail and some nibbles at sunset). The staff were all attentive and friendly and were always ready to see if we needed anything else without being pushy. It is good to see that despite a change in the kitchen that flavour and respect of the produce is still winning.
Pure South certainly gets a tick of approval from me. One or two dishes on the night were perhaps lacking a little something to make them pop, but others more than made up for it. Overall everything was of a high standard with some memorable dishes that everyone should try, perhaps not as delicate flavour-wise as the last time I dined here but to be expected given the dishes chosen, still doing the produce justice however. Well prepared and tasty food, featuring terrific Tazzie produce with great friendly staff really make this a wonderful place to visit and is without doubt Southgate’s flagship fine dining venue and worthy of it’s chef hat.
On a side note, I may need to head back to try their steak, which despite being more than happy with my choices gave me slight food envy watching them pass me, keep an eye out for them.